Courts Reverse the ZBA at 9th & Poplar

Last fall, we were excited to learn about a plan to renovate the long vacant and blighted Quaker building at 9th & Poplar into a sparkly mixed-use project. We first brought this building to your attention back in 2015, at which point we were hopeful that it would soon come back into active use. It may have taken a few years and some legal maneuvering, but it seems that’s finally what’s in store for this excellent building.

View of the building

In case we need to jog your memory, Post Brothers is the party developing the property, and their plans include ground floor retail, 350 apartments, and 135 parking spaces. The renderings looked delightful and showed an effort to modernize a hundred year old building while keeping the building’s age pretty obvious to anyone passing by.

Rendering under the tracks
Aerial rendering

We weren’t at the community meeting, but we understand the project had local support and assumed that the project would be a slam dunk at the ZBA. Sure, the building is zoned for industrial use, but let’s agree that’s not its highest and best use at this point in time. It was originally built as a warehouse and was most recently used as a storage facility, but who would want a building being used as such in their backyard? But the ZBA denied the variance back in September.

As you might expect, the developers appealed this decision. According to a story from Philly.com, a judge reversed the ZBA decision at the end of the year, which clears the way for the project to move forward. This is incredibly encouraging, as the rejection of a residential use here would pretty much ensure that the building would continue to sit vacant and blighted for an untold number of years into the future. Even with the variance, this remains a challenging property at a challenging location.

So assuming the project proceeds as planned, it will be a game changer for this area. West of the project are the Richard Allen PHA homes, and the folks living there have had the misfortune of staring at this underused structure for many years. To the east are some large parcels that could eventually get redeveloped as an extension of the energy in Northern Liberties meeting the new vibrancy created by a renovated Quaker building. This is, of course, projecting several years into the future as the redevelopment at 9th & Poplar is going to take some time to execute. And we’re certainly looking forward to seeing that redevelopment progress.